Rachel Haaland

Ambassador Spotlight: Rachel Haaland

“I want to see everything and go everywhere. The world gets bigger the more you travel. You can say, oh, I’ve been here, but I didn’t see this and that, so that has to go on my list.”

Ever wonder what it would be like to work in a different country? How about working a different job on each continent?


That was Rachel Haaland’s goal, and she recently completed it this past month – her final occupational adventure being part of a safari crew in Africa.


Throughout her journeys, she’s been able to experience so many different parts of the world through employment opportunities, delicious foods, interesting conversations and amazing adventures – and now that she’s back in her home state of Minnesota, she’s already dreaming up her next big adventure.


"I want to see everything and go everywhere,” says Rachel. “The world gets bigger the more you travel. You can say, oh, I’ve been here, but I didn’t see this and that, so that has to go on my list.”


The desire to travel didn’t quite hit Rachel until early adulthood, but on a whim, she moved to South Korea to teach English, knowing a few acquaintances who were over there doing something similar. It was her first big adventure – she quit her steady job and took a leap of faith. And it was that opportunity that really opened the doors to the world – quite literally!


Read on to learn more about Rachel’s travels across the globe, as well as the Free Wave that accompanied her along the way!






Tell me a little bit about yourself and how fitness and sports came into your life. 


As a kid, I was always interested in doing active things, but I wanted them to be fun. I was always in a bunch of sports in school: volleyball, softball, gymnastics …


We lived on a farm outside of town, so I always had to ride my bike to go see my friends. It was only about a mile, but it was a mile farther than anyone else had to ride their bike. Plus, I lived on a farm, so life is active anyway.


But then, when I became an adult, I realized that I really liked gymnastics and cycling, so those were the two that I gravitated toward. I became a gymnastics coach for a while. Then when I started leaving the U.S., it became a thing regularly where I was getting a bike and biking around the countries I was in.


When I came back to the States and met my current partner, I discovered he was big into cycling, and it became this thing we can do together. I’ve kind of stayed with cycling for the most part because it’s easy to do by yourself or with people. I can’t really run because I need a new hip. But yeah, that’s kind of where my fitness is now. It’s something to do and a way to actively get to and from places. 




How did you discover that you really loved world traveling? When did that begin?


I don’t really remember my thought process, honestly. After I graduated college, I moved from Minneapolis to Madison, Wisconsin, because it was far enough away from home but not crazy far … which sounds kind of funny when I get a year in the future because that is not what happened. I had a job at a bank, and I was super successful, one of the top people in the company.


And then I was just like, you know, I think I’m gonna move to Korea. I had a couple of friends over there teaching English, and when you move abroad, you jokingly tell people to join you, and nobody ever does. They said, “You should come,” and I said, “OK.” I don’t know what it was that made me go, but then I actually did. So I moved to Korea, and then I didn’t really come home for 10 years. I just kept jumping around from country to country, job to job, continent to continent, to see what the world had to offer.


How did you feel about that first move and the challenges you had to overcome when you made that first step?


Even in college, the sturdy abroad program that I did was a short summer program. I didn’t want to leave my family and friends. Then all of a sudden I was gonna move to Korea and leave everyone and only have a few acquaintances over there. But it was just like … the world goes on without you, and it’s fine. You can do your own thing.


When you live in a rural area like I did, the world kind of stays put. You don’t realize it when you’re there, but everything stays the same. 



So you made a goal to work a job on every continent in the world – tell me about that! How did that come about?


I don’t honestly know that either. I just made a post on Instagram about that a few weeks ago because I finally completed it – my goal was to do it before 40. I don’t remember why I came about the goal, though. I had a realization after hitting 4 out of the 7, with 3 to go, so why not go for it?


North America was checked off the box right away. I lived in Korea. I moved to Chile on my way to England. It was kind of like, well, now I just have Australia, Africa, and Antarctica – I could do this. I think I was like 28, so 40 sounded like a good goal. Again, the thought process, one day, this was just an idea, and I’m gonna do it. I always knew Africa would be my last one. 




Can you give us a little bit of a chronological timeline through all your travels?


Yeah! So in December 2007, I quit that bank job in Madison, and then I planned on moving to South Korea in February 2008, but I broke my leg, and it was a bad one. I had plates and screws holding me together. So I didn’t move until August 2008. I spent a year in Busan and then came home to get the plates in my leg removed.


While I was at home, I was wondering what to do next. I moved back to Korea – I went to Seoul for a year. While I was in Seoul, I was accepted to a master's program in England, but a friend that I worked with in Minnesota in college – he was a dentist at a university in Chile and was head of a graduate program – got me a job, so I went to Chile in February 2011 for a semester.


I stayed in Chile until August and was teaching English at a university. Funny enough, the entire university student population in Chile went on strike while I was there. They all refused to go to class in protest of tuition costs, so I actually only worked for half the semester and was mostly chilling out and traveling. The strike lasted for 6 to 8 months, I believe. It was crazy.


Then I moved to England for my master's degree in October 2011 and finished that a year later. I  was in debt and needed to get out of it, so I moved to Australia for a year to work as a barmaid in the Outback. I was able to pay off my $40,000 of loans in 40 weeks by throwing beers around to Australian miners.


Then I did some traveling, ran out of money, and came back to the States, not knowing what to do. I started applying worldwide again. My aunt – I was living with my aunt and uncle at the time – she would always laugh and ask, “Is that your dream now?” because every day, it was like, I’m gonna move here, I’m gonna move here.


I ended up teaching English to 2-year-olds in Hong Kong – I went there in August 2014 for a year and left in 2015. While I was there, I realized I was getting old, and it was my last chance to get a working holiday visa for New Zealand. So I broke my contract in Hong Kong and moved to New Zealand for a year. I worked my way around again in the hospitality industry, waitressing and bartending, and I coached gymnastics as well.


And then, I came back to the States in October 2016, I bought a car in L.A., a ’91 Honda Accord – her name was Izzy. I drove her back to Minnesota to visit my family for Thanksgiving. I went on a blind date with this guy – and never left.


Then it was just like, I was here. But I still had two continents to go, so I had been applying for something in Antarctica. It’s a very nepotistic kind of place. If you know someone, you’ll get a job. If you don’t, good luck.


So – third time’s a charm – I finally, after 3 years of applying, got a job washing dishes at McMurdo. I spent the summer season down there from October 2017 to February 2018.


Then I was living in the U.S. again. I had been trying to get a job with a cycling tour group in Africa for years. I went in November 2019 to join for a week and help out for free, just to see if it was something I liked. But that was in November 2019, so you can imagine how many jobs were available soon after [when the pandemic began].


It was the same thing with the safari company. I had found this job posting and emailed them that I was interested, but they had already hired somebody, and they didn’t need anyone, and then COVID. Then finally, after bothering the hiring manager in Zambia for 3 to 4 years, they finally gave me a job. I headed to Africa to become a safari host. I lived in the bush with no water or electricity or anything for 4 months.  That was this year, and I just returned a week ago [mid-November] back to the cold expanse of Minnesota.


Wow. What an incredible journey! What has been your favorite part of it all so far?


I don't know. I just have a hard travel bug. I want to see everything and go everywhere. It’s kind of like the working abroad. Everyone always asks me favorite place or favorite job. Nothing’s perfect. You can live somewhere where the climate is great, and the people are great, but your job kind of sucks. There’s always one thing that’s like, “meh.” It’s never absolutely perfect.


I don’t like teaching, but it’s a great way to be somewhere new, earn a good living, have a lot of good vacations, and jump off to other places. In South Korea, it was easy to go to the Philippines for Christmas. Living in the U.S., that’s not as easy to do. So that was nice from a travel standpoint.


I just want to see everything. The world gets bigger the more you travel. You can say, oh, I’ve been here, but I didn’t see this and that, so that has to go on my list. For example, one of the things on my short bucket list is to go to Bogota, and every Sunday, they shut down the entire city, and they just ride bikes. There are no cars allowed. How cool is that?  I really want to get a bunch of people together and just go bike around Colombia. 



Tell me about the brew that you’ve brought around the world!


My adventure can! So I try to take a can of Athletic brew with me every time I travel, just for social media and whatever. Usually, [Athletic] is not available where I’m going. It’s available in Western Europe but not in Eastern Europe or Africa. So I just bring the can with me to take pictures.


I brought along a can of Free Wave to Zambia. When I went to Egypt, the can disappeared. That was why I checked my backpack, so I figured someone took it out of my backpack. But I didn’t realize that I had stuck it on my carry-on in this hidden pocket. I went through security like six times. With liquids, you know, you’re only supposed to have the tiny ones, so I assumed it was gone.


Then I got to security again, and they said I had a soda in my bag. I was like, no, I don’t, and I was arguing with the guy. He finally found it, and was trying to pull it out, so I started helping him. I reached in, and I was like, oh, my adventure can! My friend was like, What! You’ve had it this whole time? This was the first airport that even caught it.


I had to slam it at security because I’d already checked my bag. So then I just had an empty can to take with me. But my adventure can made it to Qatar with me. It stayed in my hotel room – I didn’t bring it back. A Free Wave has gone with me on every trip. It’s probably been to about 20 countries now! 



What are some of your favorite memories so far on all of your journeys?


One story that I tell a lot is about this time I was sitting at a hotel in Croatia … I went to this hotel specifically because of this restaurant nearby that I wanted to go to. It was a mile from this hotel, so I wanted to eat, have some wine, and walk back.


While I was sitting there, this old man came up to me at breakfast – he had to have been like 75 or 85 – and he said hello to me in Croatian. Then he started to speak to me in Croatian, and I was like, woah, I don’t really know this language. He was like, oh, you’re American. What are you doing today? Let me take you out!


I went to the front desk, and I was like, is this guy going to like, kidnap me, or should I take him up on this offer? They were like, no, he’s good. So this man took me literally around this whole part of Croatia, into Slovenia. He was a super rich Croatian man – he said he was an arms dealer and that the U.S. owed him like a million dollars. He was building a castle on the top of the Croatian countryside.


He asked me why I was staying at that hotel, so I told him about the restaurant I was going to go to that evening. But he said it was closed that night. It was my last night there, and I was devastated. But he goes, hold on … he calls the owner, and the owner opened up the restaurant and cooked us a private meal just so we could go.


So he took me out, got me the meal that I wanted, paid for me, took me around, and was just like, if you need anything, you give me a call. I’ve never called him, but honestly, some really cool gangster Croatian man took me around the country. That never would’ve happened if I hadn’t been traveling alone. It was one of those super random things that just being there at that time, and that place otherwise wouldn’t have happened. It also was kind of dumb to just go off with some random stranger. I did ask the hotel if he was legit, and it still turned out OK. But it could’ve gone very differently. 



If you could start all over again, would you make any changes to the way you’ve done things?


I would probably get into traveling sooner. I left the country with my grandparents when I was 11 to go meet the family in Norway, then I didn’t leave again until I was 21 for that short study abroad. Then I didn’t travel again until I moved to South Korea. I feel like I missed a lot that I should’ve studied abroad properly, and that I just really should have taken advantage of life and, being younger, working holiday visas. I think that would be what I would change. 


What’s next on the agenda?


I have to find a new goal. I might try to work a summer in continental Europe. I feel like England is like, it’s [Europe] but it’s not quite. But then I don’t know. I  have to figure out what I want to do next. 


Idid meet a family on a safari this year, and they were from Portland. One of them is a travel agent. At one point, I tried to become a travel agent, and it was just basically cold-calling people to sell cruises, which was not what I thought a travel agent would be. He’s a travel agent the way that you think of travel agents putting together trips and itineraries, so he said he was going to teach me the ropes. So maybe I'll be traveling for free because it’ll be for work. That would be ideal, to get a job where it pays me to pursue my passion, right?


How did you find Athletic Brewing and the ambassador program?


I found Athletic during COVID. There was a social-distancing bike ride for bikes and beers, and they had a coupon for Athletic. It was like 50% off – it was a good coupon – so I ordered some, we got it, and we were like: This is legit, this is good beer!


This was before Free Wave became permanent in the lineup – it used to sell out in, like, 5 minutes! So I was ordering Athletic regularly, keeping it around, and at the time, I was totally sober, so it was the way I was getting through life as well.


I think I saw a post on Instagram that was talking about the ambassador application, and I was like, oh, that’s a cool thing. I applied for it but didn’t think it would pan out to be anything, and then I got into it – I got accepted, and here we are.


It’s a cool community and a cool ambassadorship. The people are really cool. Everyone is super interesting and fun to talk to. No one is weirded out if you randomly message them because you’ve been following them on social for a while. And doing the event in Minnesota last summer was super fun!



What are some of your proudest achievements? 


Athletic- or fitness-wise, during COVID, all of our bike rides were canceled, and at the time, I was a substitute teacher, so my job was canceled as well. I was like, what am I gonna do? So I  decided to cycle like crazy. My partner and one of our friends decided to do a 200-mile bike ride. We planned three routes, and depending on which way the wind was blowing when we woke up that day was the way we would ride. We decided we wanted to do the 200-mile ride in a day, and we rode from our house to Wisconsin.


It wasn’t a race. Everyone was just chill. We would stop at Casey’s for a sandwich when we were hungry or at another random gas station. A bunch of our friends got involved. Everyone made it into a thing. We got to the hotel at 11:45 that night. Everyone was stoked that we just rode 200 miles.


That was pretty awesome. I also hit 70 [visited] countries and territories on this trip. So that’s kinda sweet too!



Do you have any other bucket list races, events, or achievements that you’d like to attain one day?



I did want to do an IRONMAN 70.3, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be running again with my hip, so that’s not really a thing, but I would like to do some big bucket list bike ride. Cairo to Cape Town, or St. Petersburg to Gibraltar, the Silk Road … some huge months-long bike ride or bike-packing trip. That would be epic. 


What’s your favorite type of food, especially through all your travels?


I would probably say pasta of some kind, whether that’s Italian pasta or Asian noodles. You can go anywhere with pasta, but I really like noodles and noodle-shaped things. But it’s hard to say. I really like food. There’s so much. I can’t even narrow it down to cuisine. But living in the middle of nowhere [in rural Minnesota], I’ve had to learn to cook it all. We don’t have Thai food around here. We don’t have Korean food. We can get burgers and pizza – occasionally good pizza, but usually just pizza. So it is like, what do I have a craving for today? Where in the world do I want to go? I would also say I like spicy food; not always hot-spicy, but flavorful-spicy. 

What do you like to do on rest days?


I’m a big reader; I like to read a lot. Usually, if I’m just resting, I will just do nothing. Sit on the couch with my cats. Read a book. I cook a lot, but I don’t know that’s specific to rest and recovery days. I cook a lot because I like to cook. I guess I just kind of rest or do normal things. Hang out with friends, plan a trip. 



What gets you up and out of bed every day?


Thinking about it, it does sound silly because it makes me sound like I always want to leave … but I do just always want to see what’s out there. Getting up, going to work … what are you going to work for if you’re not working toward something, saving money or time or something? You get up every day to go through the monotony of daily life to get to the excitement of the future. If all you do is travel, that’s monotony as well. You have to have some kind of monotonous part of life to get to the adventure. 


What does Fit for All Times mean to you?


It means that you are living a life that’s that’s active even if you aren’t training for a big event – an active life outside of going to the gym or a specific workout. It’s not something that if you have one of those days where all you do is lay on the couch, you’re not not fit. It’s a constant in life. You can’t do a 200-mile bike ride every day. Sometimes you just need to chill, just see what you need today. Maybe today what you need is some ramen. That’s what it means to me. 

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